O.C. Review: El Coyotito, San Juan Capistrano

I stuff a few dollar bills into the machine and scroll through the CDs: Banda Machos, Gerardo Ortiz, Juan Gabriel, Julio Iglesias, Enrique Iglesias, Christina Aguilera … and settle on the younger Iglesias, plus The Eagles, The Cars and Eric Clapton. The Eagles’ 1979 hit “I Can’t Tell You Why” begins to play, and everyone in the dining room seems to approve, even the two guys in the corner who are wearing dusty cowboy boots and sharing an ice-filled bucket of beer.

Why I travel: for the food, but also for the unexpected

My rickshaw driver keeps pace with taxis as he peddles me through Hanoi’s Old Quarter. The cool wind against my face brings relief from Vietnam’s stifling summer heat. Just as I’m about to relax, I smell smoke. It’s not the ubiquitous smog of unregulated motorbike exhausts. I immediately recognize this aroma as barbecue, like pork …

What to eat (or not) at the Orange County Fair

My first strategy at the OC Fair was to follow the smoke. Where there’s smoke, there will also be good food. Or so it usually goes. I spotted the beef tri-tips smoldering on a grill. They looked awesome. They looked like real Santa Maria barbecue. I immediately got in line and ordered the tri-tip sandwich. It was gross…

Photo of the week: San Jose del Cabo

This is one of my favorite photos from my stay at the beautiful Mar Adentro in San Jose del Cabo, an incredible resort designed  (and owned) by Miguel Angel Aragones. I love the brutal simplicity of the beach chairs and umbrellas. I woke up early to catch the sunrise…

Hotel Review: Freehand, Los Angeles

The Freehand Los Angeles opened last week at the corner of 8th and Olive — across the street from legendary dive bar the Golden Gopher. The 226-room hotel resides in the landmark, 12-story Commercial Exchange building, which has been gutted and completely redesigned with an urban-hipster twist on California Craftsman. 

This just in: Southern California Journalism Awards!

I’m feeling grateful and blessed to receive the Southern California Journalism Award for restaurant criticism at the Los Angeles Press Club’s annual gala. It is particularly gratifying to see this comment from the judges: “The winning critique blends a keen palate with laugh-out-loud humor in this spot-on reminder that a restaurant is much more than the food on the plate.”

O.C. Review: Meizhou Dongpo, Irvine

My skin is numb. Not just my lips and tongue but my lungs and toes, too. I have never been so uncomfortable as right now because I badly want to eat this stuff. It smells so nice. And it tastes so good for that millisecond before the electric surge…